When a construction project involves digging of the ground, everyone involved plays an 

important role in knowing the presence and location of underground utility lines. This will ensure the safety of workers and prevent damage to the lines which can cause disruption of services and inconvenience to people and businesses affected.

Each project that involves digging involves many stakeholders, but it isn’t prudent for anyone to assume that knowing the location and presence of underground utilities is someone else’ responsibility. Simply put, each digging project requires coordination and open lines of communication among project stakeholders, and calling 811 may not be enough, because there are other questions that need answers before you start breaking the ground.

Every player in the business that involves digging operations including contractors in the construction business, horizontal directional drilling contractors, manufacturers, cities and municipalities, locating services, utility companies, and 811 groups  play a vital role in ensuring that underground utilities are safeguarded, and they key to make this work effectively is communication and coordination. It is an advocacy initiated by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) to promote a safe and efficient underground utility installation. Using resources like posters, flyers and social media graphics, the initiative strives to spread information to industry stakeholders to promote awareness and develop worker knowledge and skills.

According to The American Surveyor, excavation-related damages to utilities cost the United States an estimated $30 billion in 2019 alone. To help workers and industry stakeholders, like building contractors, directional boring contractors, and digging project owners avoid costly excavation incidents, the association took time to tell people the 9 most common myths in digging work as well as the facts that belie them. Their goal here is to educate industry workers, professionals and digging project owners about the realities of digging in order to prevent incidents that can cause harm to human lives and damage to property.


Here are the 9 myths and facts you should know before starting a digging project:


Myth # 1: It is safe to assume the depths of utilities.

Fact: Assuming depths of utilities is against safe digging practices. The depths of subsurface utilities should be measured to ensure accuracy and prevent incidents. 

Myth # 2: Accidents won’t happen because I’ve done it hundreds of times.

Fact: Thinking that no accident will happen because you’ve done it over and over again is against Murphy’s Law. Anything can really happen at the worst possible moment. Every stakeholder in the digging industry should take the necessary precautions to ensure a safe operation. 

Myth # 3: Digging to expose buried utility should be sufficient.

Fact: No. Digging to expose the depth of buried utility is never enough. Digging to the depth of the intended bore path is always the best way to avoid incidents.

Myth # 4: If you drill deeper, you’ll surely avoid hitting buried utilities.

Fact: Drilling deeper is not an assurance that hitting existing utilities won’t happen. It is always necessary to conduct locating, potholing and site preparation before any digging job. 

Myth # 5: It’s not necessary to locate sewer lines

Fact: For safety reasons and to avoid liability, you should locate, identify and mark sewer lines before digging. In these modern times, it’s no longer difficult to locate lines so that you can properly mark them and avoid incidents.

Myth # 6: No location marks means there are no existing utilities in the area.

Fact: There is only one simple yet sure way to know this and that is to verify and verify again. The absence of marks doesn’t totally mean that no utilities exist in the area. It could also mean that the utility wasn’t located yet.

Myth # 7: People at 811 should be liable if an incident happens after I called their number.

Fact: As project owners or directional boring contractors, you should take note that 811 doesn’t locate utilities but mark the approximate location of existing utilities. It is your responsibility as excavator, contractor or project owner, to check the location of buried utilities and make sure that those are correct.

Myth # 8: Potholing or exposing utilities is part of the price of a drilling contract.

Fact: In some instances, yes, but you should not assume that it works the same way on all projects. Potholing should be considered as a separate activity from the drilling job.  

Myth # 9: You can depend on electric strike alert systems to predict electric strikes.

Fact: It’s possible for electric strike alert systems to predict an electric strike – if it is near an energized line. However, you should not depend on it to detect a line prior to the strike. 

Learning about pre-digging myths and the facts that refute them can help to make you aware of what is the right thing to do before commencing a digging job. If you’re one of the horizontal directional drilling contractors or a digging project owner, you should know the myths and take the facts as advice for a safe, productive, and liability-free operation. 


That’s what we do at Advanced Line Systems.

Call us at (303) 475-8420.